'Part James Bond, part Hugh Hefner': Unique Rolling Meadows home sells for $531K
The concrete exterior, with its rough-hewed, brutalist architecture, belies the house's convivial interior design: swinging '70s, with spiral staircases, curving walls, wood-paneled bar, indoor pool, oval-shaped fireplace, and furniture accented in violet, indigo and burnt orange.
Emily O'Brien took one look and fell in love.
"The outside says, 'midcentury, brutalist,' and the inside has a hint of the '70s. It has fun vibes, Austin Powers vibes," said O'Brien, who recently outbid other prospective buyers, paying $531,000 for the house in Rolling Meadows.
O'Brien, 27, operates Hello Vintage, an online fashion marketplace specializing in buying and selling clothing dating from the 16th through 20th centuries, including rare museum-type pieces. She began collecting and selling vintage clothing at age 14, turning it into a career once she graduated from college.
When she saw the Rolling Meadows house, O'Brien viewed it as a place to live and to stage photo shoots for her merchandise.
"The furniture, the wood paneling, the woods outside; I felt these were good settings to take photos," she said.
O'Brien is in the process of closing a Hello Vintage storefront in Oakland, California, and shifting exclusively to online retailing when she moves into the Rolling Meadows home this summer.
"I've been extremely spoiled with California's weather. But I'm looking forward to the change of seasons and cozying up in my home in winter," she said.
O'Brien had been searching for a house for almost a year when she saw the Rolling Meadows house pop up in November on Zillow Gone Wild, an Instagram site featuring unique and unusual real estate listings. She saw the Instagram post on a Friday, and the following Monday, she was on a plane to Chicago.
After touring the home near Plum Grove and Kirchoff roads, O'Brien outbid four other prospective buyers by offering to pay cash and agreeing to best any offer by $1,000.
"When I saw the house, I didn't want to leave," she said.
The 3,500-square-foot house rests on a wooded half acre and has four bedrooms and four full baths. The exterior is made of poured concrete and features four towering cylinders with a diamond-shaped center.
The entrance has a three-story cylindrical tower with a spiral staircase leading to an open main level with a two-story living room, a built-in bar, open kitchen/dining room, a large family room, a built-in curved sofa and an oval fireplace. There's also is an indoor pool with a two-story waterslide.
"I'm a mermaid at heart, so I love the pool," O'Brien said.
The four bedrooms include a master bedroom with a round bed with built-in lighting that can be controlled from the headboard. And the house has special features such narrow-width wood slat paneling and terrazzo floors.
The modernist house, built in 1977, is a far cry from the iconic Rolling Meadows ranch homes constructed in the 1950s by builder Kimball Hill.
"It's part James Bond, part Hugh Hefner and part 'Mad Men'," said Lou Zucaro, author of Illinois Modern, a website focused on midcentury modern real estate.
Zucaro is also an agent with Baird & Warner, and he represented the home's seller, Anders Stubkjaer, a finance and operations executive and business consultant. Records show Stubkjaer bought the house in 1991 for $510,000. Stubkjaer did not respond to interview requests.
The unsolved mystery is the name of the original owner and the architect who designed the home. Zucaro has tried to search public records, but has come up empty. And Stubkjaer did not receive any information when he bought the house, Zucaro said.
"He was at least the third or fourth owner by the time he bought it, and it didn't come with a copy of the plans," Zucaro said. "The area was once unincorporated, so finding any information has been a challenge."